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‘Not very productive,’ Hawley says of confidential Senate Iran briefing

America is in a “bar fight” with Iran and Russia, and the Biden administration "wants to quote Socrates," says Sen. John Kennedy.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) talks to reporters in a “stakeout” after a confidential Senate Iran briefing on May 16, 2023. Credit: Screenshot.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) talks to reporters in a “stakeout” after a confidential Senate Iran briefing on May 16, 2023. Credit: Screenshot.

Following a closed-door Senate briefing on Iran on Tuesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) expressed dissatisfaction, saying that if the Biden administration has a cohesive strategy on Iran, he had yet to hear it.

“I really don’t have much to say. It was not a very productive briefing,” he said. Asked what he thought took the Biden administration so long to provide the briefing—Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked for it months ago—Hawley said, “Based on what I heard for the last 40 minutes, they really don’t have much to say on the topic. I didn’t think it was a particularly useful briefing.”

Speaking to reporters after the briefing, he said the meeting needn’t have been classified.

“Nothing that I heard just now required a classification level that it was at. It could totally have been done open and you all could have been there,” he said. “We didn’t learn anything new or remotely classified.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told reporters, “I can’t say anything that’s classified. But Iran is continuing to be a despicable player. They’re continuing to support Hezbollah and other groups. They’re continuing to cause problems, especially in Israel.”

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), after first telling reporters “I’m only going to talk to my dog today,” returned and said he had changed his mind.

“It has been clear to me for quite a while that Iran is working with China, which is working with Russia,” he said. “They have an overall goal in mind. And let me say, this effort is being quarterbacked by President Xi in China. But both the ayatollah in Iran and [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin are willing participants.”

Their goal, he continued, “is to have Russia dominate Central and Eastern Europe, to have Iran dominate the Middle East and to have China dominate the Indo-Pacific while being free to make moves in sub-Saharan Africa and in South America.”

Should they succeed, he added, “That is not a world that is safe for the United States of America.”

The sanctions have slowed Iran and Russia, but have not stopped them, according to Kennedy.

“We’re in a bar fight with Putin, with Xi and with the ayatollah,” he said. “The Biden administration wants to quote Socrates in the middle of a bar fight. And I love Socrates as much as the next person, but that’s not how you win a bar fight.”

Politico had predicted ahead of the briefing that “there’s a good chance the private session will get a little rowdy as the administration, some Democrats and Republicans are at odds over how to handle Iran.”

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